We discount people all at the time. They may know it; we usually don’t. I mean, think about the last time someone said something to you that just didn’t sit right. You wondered, “Huh? Did he mean I’m…?”
Our intent may be positive, but unwittingly, we may still come across negative, leaving the other person doubting what’s going on.
Here are four common statements people often say. So common that we don’t give them much thought. But maybe we should. You’ve probably heard or said one of them yourself in the past week.
1. “Let me play devil’s advocate.”
This translates to, “You’re wrong, and I will now point out your flaws for all to hear.”
Which can be heard as: “You dummy; I’m going to point out each stupid thing you said.” I.e., “You are inferior.”
Next time try using this instead: “My thinking takes a different line. When I think about this, I think …”
2. “What John means …”
Translation: “John is not articulate enough to be understood. I, of course, need to help him here.”
John hears, “You obviously don’t know how to express yourself. Fortunately, I am here to will help you.”
Once again, John is painted as inferior and the ‘translator’ feels s/he is coming across as the helpful (albeit superior) person.
So, next time: “John, can you tell us more about how you are thinking?”
Translation: “You are so wrong that it barely justifies explanation. Flat out wrong.” The speaker usually goes on to say what’s “right”.
Which can be heard as, “Wow, what a loser that you don’t see the obvious.” Of course, this is a big discount.
This works much better: “I think about it differently, so I’d like to learn more about your thinking on this.” This creates an opportunity to find out the thinking behind the idea.
Another way that works: “I see it differently; the way I see it…”
4. Where did you get that idea?
Translation: “How did you ever come up with that off-the-wall/stupid idea?”
Which can be heard as, “Do you even have a brain? Do you even know what’s going on here?”
Once again, John is dashed onto the rocks.
A more appropriate response: “John, tell me/us more about how you’re thinking on this.”
So as you can see, you’re usually on solid ground when you simply ask someone to tell you more about how they’re thinking.
Keep in mind:
Being right is not the same as being certain.
When we feel certain, we usually believe that we are right. This may or may not be true.
Just because we feel certain about something does not mean we are right. It’s easy for us to confuse certainty with correctness.
Remember, everyone thinks and sees the things a little differently.